Whenever I rub my dog Hiro’s ears, he slowly collapses onto the floor. I call it a puppy melt, and it’s a sure sign of complete momentary pleasure. I feel the same way when I eat freshly made bread, and with these sage brown butter rolls you might just melt too. To make the rolls I use the whole wheat cast iron bread recipe as a base, and then I add minced fresh sage seared in butter that’s been browned. There’s an excellent tutorial on how to brown butter on Elise Bauer’s Simply Recipes site, and it’s worth reading so you know the difference between just melted, browned, or burnt. Once you’ve gotten a handle on the butter technique, it’s simply a matter of adding everything together for a swoon-worthy little roll.
Sage Brown Butter Rolls
500 grams white whole wheat flour (freshly ground if possible)
2 grams/1 teaspoon instant yeast
230 grams lukewarm water
85 grams lukewarm pale lager beer
15 grams apple cider vinegar
10 grams/2 teaspoons coarse-ground kosher salt
57 grams/1/4 cup unsalted butter
57 grams/1/4 cup minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
The afternoon/evening before:
Measure the flour, using a digital scale, into the mixer bowl. Stir in the teaspoon of instant yeast. Measure the liquids using the digital scale and add to the flour. Mix well until the liquid is completely incorporated into the flour. Cover and set aside to autolyse for an hour.
While the bread develops, mince the fresh sage. The easiest way to do this is to stack several leaves together, slice thinly lengthwise, and then slice thinly width-wise. You’ll need to mince one stack at a time until you reach 1/4 cup. Place the minced sage in a heat-proof bowl or pyrex cup. Next, cut the butter into four equal pieces, place in saucepan, and brown over medium heat. Remove the butter from the heat immediately once it browns and pour over the sage carefully; it will foam up somewhat when the butter hits it. Stir the butter and sage together to make sure the sage is completely coated. Set aside.
After the dough has autolysed for an hour, stir the salt into the sage-butter mixture, then mix the sage-butter salt mixture into the dough. Dough will be fairly sticky. Using the dough hook, knead the dough on medium speed for ten minutes until you can pull a windowpane from a small piece of the dough. Remove the dough, roll into a loose ball, and place it in a large bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm area until doubled in bulk, from two to four hours. After the dough has risen completely, remove the dough from the bowl. Divide the dough into twelve equal pieces. Shape each piece into a tight round by rolling between your hands on the countertop, and pinching any seams on the bottom together so they are smooth. I’ve found the easiest way to have uniform rolls is to measure the weight of the dough on a digital scale before I divide it, and then calculate how much each piece of dough needs to weigh by dividing that number by 12. Then I start dividing the dough and weighing each piece, making adjustments as needed and shaping each into a roll. Place each roll on a large piece of parchment paper, cover the rolls with plastic wrap, and using a pizza peel underneath the parchment paper, place the rolls on a shelf in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning:
Remove the rolls from the refrigerator on the parchment paper with the pizza peel and place on a counter near the oven or in a warm area. Keep covered and let continue to rise for one hour.
While the rolls come to room temperature and rise a little, place a pizza stone on the middle rack in the oven. Place a cast iron lid or pan with oven-proof stones in it on a separate rack set at the second to lowest position in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
To make the butter-sage glaze, mince one teaspoon of fresh sage and place in a heat-proof bowl or pyrex cup. Brown 1 tablespoon of butter, and pour immediately over the minced sage. Stir to coat the sage evenly. Set aside.
About 5 minutes before the rolls go into the oven, heat about 3 cups of water to boiling in the microwave. Pour the water into a steel watering can with a long spout. Using the pizza peel, slide the parchment paper with the rolls onto the baking stone in the oven. Pour the hot water into the cast iron pan over the hot stones. Close the oven door immediately. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven by sliding the pizza peel underneath the parchment paper, place on cooling racks, and remove the parchment paper from underneath the rolls. Using a pastry or basting brush, brush each roll with the butter-sage glaze. Let cool for several minutes and serve, or cool completely and store.
Makes twelve 3-inch round rolls